Food for Thought – (5/15/2023)

What to know about sports drinks

Summer is around the corner and reaching for a cool drink will soon be a reflex for anyone that steps outside. Choosing what to drink used to be a pretty easy task, but now with a growing number of electrolyte beverages available, making the right choice can be just as agonizing as the dehydration itself.         

We all know hot weather makes us sweat. When you work your muscles, this also generates metabolic heat and the sweating can increase. As the sweat evaporates from your body, this helps to keep you cool. The amount of electrolytes in your perspiration can vary, but the main minerals lost are sodium and chloride, followed by potassium. These minerals are responsible for controlling fluid exchange within the body’s fluid compartments. You will typically lose four times more sodium than you will potassium in your sweat, so the key electrolyte to look for in a sports drink is sodium.           

Electrolyte drinks, or sports drinks, have been around over 50 years. Doctors at the University of Florida invented the beverage out of necessity to help football players replenish fluids and electrolytes during hot and humid practices, and they are now perceived to be essential for anyone engaging in physical activity. Sports drink sales top $7 Billion annually with Gatorade and Powerade commanding close to 90% of the market share.                

The decision to use a sports drink rather than plain water is largely dependent on three factors:

First of all, consider the environment where the activity will take place.

it is hot, sweat losses are obviously increased so the sports drink helps replenish the electrolytes as well as the water.

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Secondly, if the activity is intense.

The sports drink provides an additional form of energy to the muscles, in the form of carbohydrate.

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Lastly, if the exercise is time-consuming.

Your body’s limited supply of muscle carbohydrate can become depleted. Therefore, it becomes vital to replace it in order to keep performing at an optimal level.

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Sports drinks contain a concentration of carbohydrate that is enough to fuel the muscle without triggering too much gastrointestinal distress, which can happen if you consume drinks too high in sugar while exercising.

The bottom line is that water is the perfect complement to most activity. Consuming a balanced diet also provides the body with any traces of minerals lost during casual perspiration. The key lesson to remember is that sports drinks are for when you are playing sports, not watching sports.

-Jon Vredenburg, MBA, RD, CDCES, LD/N


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Learn more about how to reduce food waste with our previous special Earth Day edition of Food for Thought!

Want more?

Check out our previous edition of Food for Thought!

Learn more about how to reduce food waste with our previous special Earth Day edition of Food for Thought!

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